Coal advocates, union leaders, and tradesmen were joined by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-R-18) in the Allegheny County Courthouse’s courtyard to denounce new standards on carbon emissions for power plants.
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to cut carbon emissions for all future coal-fired power plants. Regulations on current plants have not been released yet.
The Monday gathering kicked off a trip to Washington D.C. where coal supporters tomorrow will conduct a “Rally for American Energy Jobs” at the Capitol Building. Murphy will then hold a hearing of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee to discuss coal jobs under the proposed federal standards.
In 2011, Pennsylvania was the fourth largest coal-producing state with coal-fired plants generating 44 percent of the state’s electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Murphy said the Obama Administration has "declared war" on the coal industry, hurting American workers.
“When people lose their jobs, we offer them unemployment. And then they lose their unemployment, and we put them on welfare. They lose their homes; we give them public housing. They can’t feed their kids; we give them food stamps and healthcare. And all they ever really wanted was a job,” said Murphy.
As StateImpact Pennsylvania reported “Most natural gas-fired plants are expected to easily meet these new standards. But in order to get the necessary permits from the EPA, all new coal plants would need to use ‘carbon capture and sequestration technology,” which is still in development and expensive.
But earlier this month, two coal-fired plants owned by FirstEnergy closed: the Mitchell Power Station in Washington County and Hatfield’s Ferry plant in Greene County. FirstEnergy said the shutdowns were because of changing coal markets and anticipated changes in federal emissions standards.
Ray Ventrone, Business Manager for the Boilermakers Local 154, said the regulations are taking jobs away from his members.
“I don’t know if the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace, and all these other tree huggers…I don’t know if they realize the jobs that they’re taking away from this country. And it’ pretty crazy.” said Ventrone. “And we’re going to fight. I’m going to fight this to the end.”
The EPA issued a statement calling out power plants as the country’s “single largest source of carbon pollution,” which must be addressed to combat climate change.
“Science tells us that climate change is real, that human activities are fueling that change, and that we must take action now to avoid the most devastating consequences.”
The statement goes on to say the EPA is hosting 11 listening sessions across the country to seek public input. "The agency wants to hear from everyone – including communities, industry leaders, environmental and public health groups, faith leaders, tribes, and labor organizations -- about how EPA should work with states to develop and implement carbon pollution guidelines for existing power plants under the Clean Air Act.”
Murphy said, when Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy testified earlier before his subcommittee, members asked whether the agency takes jobs losses into account before crafting regulations, and the answer was “no.”